On Monday, Anders Nilsson was dealt from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Edmonton Oilers.
That is, his rights were dealt — the 6 foot 5 Swedish netminder never actually donned a Blackhawks jersey. He was actually only listed in their system for one season, which he spent playing for Ak-Bars Kazan of the KHL. He hasn’t played in North America since the 2013-2014 season, which saw him struggle when splitting his time between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the New York Islanders.
The Oilers gave up forward prospect Liam Coughlin in the swap, who has spent the last two seasons in the BCHL and is committed to playing for the University of Vermont next year.
Coughlin was a ‘reach pick’ when the Oilers selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, coming out of what many consider a lower-calibre league with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. The amateur league serves as a cheat system for skaters who want to play NCAA following their junior careers, but the South Boston native’s decision not to stay in the US instead of heading for Western Canada could be a red flag about his pace against higher competition as a junior skater. He played for his high school prior to heading to the BCHL, but overall is still a question mark as a prospect.
He’s the perfect player, therfore, to give up for a ‘maybe’ netminder.
The Blackhawks recently walked away from their second of two high-level backups in Antti Raanta, whom they dealt to the New York Rangers in the aftermath of the Cam Talbot trade. They still have both Corey Crawford and Scott Darling, though, who likely stood in the way of Nilsson ever seeing NHL ice while in their system.
For the Oilers, though, he’s an intriguing possibility. While Nilsson struggled in his first two seasons in North America, the lanky netminder seemed to see his game revived while back in the KHL. He finished his 2014-2015 campaign with a .936 SV% in thirty-eight starts for Ak-Bars, then saw his numbers take a microscopic dip to a .935 SV% in twenty post-season appearances. He proved capable of starting in Russia, and could contemplate a return to North American hockey as a result.
It’s no secret that Edmonton struggles in net. The club has gone through a near-comical carousel of netminders in the last handful of years, and their tandem from the 2014-2015 campaign was far from a viable solution. They’ve added Cam Talbot, but both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth ended last year on an extremely low note.
The Pacific Division club could be well-served in the future with prospect Laurent Brossoit, who looks like he could be ready to shoulder starts within the next handful of seasons. Finnish prospect Eetu Laurikainen is also an intriguing option for the club, as he went from posting impressive numbers for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos to holding up well as a 22 year old behind SM-liiga’s Espoo Blues. Adding Nilsson to the name of possibilities for the Oilers, though, is far from a bad thing — especially since he could potentially fill a need now (even at the AHL level, if that’s what he agrees to) while Coughlin likely wouldn’t even see pro ice time for another two to four years.
In any case, it’s clear that the Oilers are continuing to tinker — and it’s doubtful they’re finished just yet.
The team has also signed the netminder to a one-year deal.
In addition to acquiring Nilsson from Chicago today, the #Oilers have agreed to terms with the goaltender on a one-year contract.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 7, 2015